Have you ever got up in the morning to find a “present” at your bedroom door? A dead rat is not the thing you want to see first thing in the morning, but your cat looks expectantly at you like it is proud of the gift.
Does your cat eat the rats it kills, or does it just kill them for fun?
Cats sometimes eat rats in addition to killing them, but this is rare. Rats aren’t a desirable meal for a cat, so it may take a bite or two of the rat it kills but won’t eat it whole unless it’s really hungry. Additionally, indoor cats usually don’t have access to or the capability to catch rats.
Read on as we explore how your cat may behave when encountering a mouse or rat. We’ll also discuss cats and rats in general.
Table of Contents
Why Do Cats Kill Rats or Play With Them?
Cats kill rats when provoked. It’s normal for a cat to chase a rat due to its predatory instinct, which triggers it to “hunt” small animals. Oftentimes, they just want to play, which often leads to the rat dying. They do that by grabbing and squeezing the rat’s neck until it suffocates.
When not hunting, cats usually take a few bites out of curiosity and leave them alone because rodents don’t taste as good as birds or fish.
Not all cats are able to catch or kill a rat, though. Some house cats may be too large to hunt despite being strong, while others would only mess things up before stopping the rat chase, meaning these cats can’t catch one.
Many cats live indoors without ever going outside, so the chances of them crossing paths with a rat are slim.
Cats May Hunt Rats or Small Rodents Out of Boredom
Cats are intelligent creatures, meaning they can learn from their mistakes. If a cat tries to hunt a rat but fails, it’ll try again until it manages to catch one or eventually gets bored from trying.
Cats might kill mice for these reasons:
However, cats rarely eat rats because they know how bad rodents taste. Birds and fish taste much better, so if a cat goes after a rat, it’s mainly for playing.
They are solitary hunters that prefer eating smaller animals rather than larger ones that can fight back such as deer. Instead, cats usually go after rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, or mice instead of large prey. Cats kill rats because they can, not always because they want to eat them. They’ve always been known for their ability to catch mice, but only a few cats do it these days.
The YouTube video below explains why cats hunt rats:
Street Cats May Hunt and Eat Rats To Survive
Cats living in the wild and with no access to regular food might eat rats. Any cat struggling to feed itself may be forced to eat rats to survive.
However, cats typically avoid eating rats, as they prefer to eat other small defenseless animals. Some cats are known to kill small animals, including rats, and then leave them as a gift for other cats or predators since cats like to play with prey before killing them.
Rats are easy targets for feral cats since chances of meeting outside are high.
Cats wouldn’t be able to eat a rat right away because the fur makes it hard for cats to get through. Besides, cats can’t chew on bones either since their teeth are only good enough for catching prey and piercing their flesh but not strong enough to chew on tough meat off bones like dogs can with ease.
They are predators capable of killing rodents without chewing much at all, depending on how big the rodent in question is compared to your average house cat. This can vary from location to location around the world.
Can My Cat Get Sick From Eating a Rat?
Your cat can get sick from eating a rat. Cats that eat rats may experience:
- Stomach pains
Your cat’s health may also decline if it eats a rat since cats are susceptible to various types of infections from rodents.
Rats Carry Parasites and Disease
If your cat catches and eats an infected rodent, it can get very sick. Exposures to rodents can have a variety of effects on your cat. Mice and rats carry viruses, germs, parasites, and even poisons that can harm your cat or you.
They also carry many types of worms and bacteria, which could infect your cat if they eat one, so it’s best not to let them catch a rat.
Cats Can Become Sick After Ingesting a Rat
Cats that catch a rat and then eat it can become sick from the parasites or bacteria that rats carry. They may also get worms from eating rodents that live outside in unsanitary conditions with wild cats.
Toxoplasmosis is another disease cats can contract by ingesting a rodent from contact with infected cat feces through litter boxes or outdoors. Cats that contract this disease may not show any symptoms, but they can become sick and even die if the infection is severe.
Rats Can Poison Cats
Rat poisons can be ingested by rats and transferred to your cat. While your cat won’t die immediately from the poison, it may start to vomit, become severely weak and lethargic, or lose its appetite for several days before dying.
These poisons cause internal bleeding, so your cat could bleed out from many areas inside its body before dying unless someone takes it for treatment.
A Rat Can Scratch and Injure Your Cat
A rat can inflict serious injury to your cat while attacking or defending itself. Rats have sharp teeth that’ll cut into the skin and cause wounds.
The wounds could cause several infections for your poor feline.
How Can I Prevent My Cat From Eating Rats?
You can prevent your cat from eating rats by keeping it indoors. This also ensures they don’t get lost or harmed while chasing after small animals like mice and rats outside. Ensure your home is free from rodent infestation, too. It also helps to feed your cat indoors only.
Your cat won’t likely eat rats if you make it more difficult for it to get into the rats’ space.
You should also keep barn cats on your property if you believe there’s an issue with rodents. This encourages cats to go after them even in spaces usually off-limits, such as under porches.
You’ll need to give your cat an elevated place to sleep so it won’t have access to the outdoors, where there may be rats. They can climb up onto tables, but it might help to keep cats out of certain areas in the house.
Cats will kill and occasionally eat rats, but it’s rare. Rats are not typically desirable prey for cats, so don’t be too alarmed if you see your cat catching one every once in a while. They’re unlikely to eat a whole rat, though, as it’s usually just for kicks or because the cat is bored with its usual diet.
Rats are too big and smelly, so usually, cats will avoid eating them.
To prevent your cat from eating a rat, keep it indoors, and feed it inside your home only. Also, ensure your home doesn’t have a rat problem.
- Vetwest: Should You Be Concerned If Your Pet Eats a Rat or Mouse?
- Live Science: Why Do Cats Bring Home Dead Animals?
- Animal Medical Center: My Cat Just Ate a Mouse! Should I Be Proud or Worried?
- The Wildlife Society: Rats! Feral cats fail at urban rodent control
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.